The selling season for select 2-year-olds in training staggered out of the starting gate in Central Florida Feb. 17. The year’s first major juvenile auction, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February sale, suffered sobering setbacks of 29.3% in gross revenue, 33.7% in average price, and 28% in median price from a year ago. Another discouraging result was the buy-back rate, which soared from 28.2% in 2008 to 38.3%.
“It was certainly a tough day,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. “I think the buyers got some very nice horses at discount prices.”
Given the difficult global economic environment, the downturns weren’t a surprise. However, on a more positive note, the drops weren’t as steep as during the recent mixed stock auctions, when declines of 40% or more were common.
“It’s probably what we had all expected,” said OBS chairman of the board Mike O’Farrell, who operates Ocala Stud. “It wasn’t a terrible sale, but it wasn’t a great sale. We got through it. In this world we have today, it wasn’t too bad. It could have been a lot worse. We’ve just got to grin and bear it.”
The 95 horses that sold grossed $9,925,700 and averaged $104,481. The median was $90,000. In 2008, 89 horses grossed $14,030,000. The average of $157,640 set a record for the auction and so did the median of $125,000.
For Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds, the depressed market was a buying opportunity. His racing partnership venture, with New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace signing the sale tickets, was the biggest spender, paying $1,260,000 for six horses, including the $340,000 sale-topping Graeme Hall filly and the co-highest-priced colt, a son of Tapit that brought $300,000. West Point also purchased a Not For Love-Lady Tiara colt privately.
Last year, the February auction’s top price was $520,000 and eight horses sold for $400,000 or more.
“There’s been a little bit of a discount; depending on the horse, it’s between about 10% and 30%,” Finley said. “I know it’s a painful process for the sellers, but it’s great to finally be in a position where, as end users, we have a better shot to make a return on our investment.”
The $340,000 Graeme Hall filly, a flashy chestnut, worked an eighth of a mile before the OBS February sale in :10. Produced from the 11-year-old winning Judge T C mare Vines of Justice, she is from the family of 2005 Canadian champion Ambitious Cat, 2002 Hong Kong Horse of the Year Electronic Unicorn, and 1997 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Blushing K. D.
Ben McElroy and Gabriel Duignan of Elite Horse Racing were the immediate underbidders on the filly. Trainer Todd Pletcher also tried to buy her.
“One of my clients, Chris Larsen, really loved her; he called her the ‘belle of the ball,’ ” said Finley, who was accompanied by a group of approximately 20 West Point partners and potential investors. “I believe she’ll go to the Northeast (to race). She’s a really, really beautiful physical specimen, and she has a great mind.”
Added Chace: “She traveled very well on the racetrack. She had a smooth, nice way of going. She didn’t have the fastest work of the sale, but she did it the right way.”
Eddie Woods consigned the Florida-bred filly for Joe and Winifred Greeley’s Sabine Stable, which purchased her for $155,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
“She’s a beautiful, very elegant, and very racy looking,” Woods said. “We were delighted with the price. You get all the right money for the right individual that’s a great mover and vets well. After that, there’s nobody home.”
The $300,000 Tapit colt is the first foal out of the 6-year-old unraced Regal Classic mare Granuaile, who is a half-sister to Canadian stakes winner Sariphone. Niall Brennan Stables, agent, was the gray or roan juvenile’s consignor.
The other $300,000 colt, a son of Giant's Causeway was the first horse in the sale ring. Harry Benson purchased the handsome chestnut for Florence Patitucci from Jerry Bailey Sales Agency, agent. Produced from the 14-year-old Seattle Slew mare Inny River, the colt is a half-brother to English group II winner Montgomery’s Arch and stakes winner Welcome Inn.